The abuse of prescription painkillers and narcotics has grown into a bonafide public health crisis, affecting virtually every state, city and small town in the United States. Nearly half of the roughly 40,000 drug overdose deaths in 2010 involved pain medications, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. Approximately 2.1 million people are dependent upon or abusing opioid pain medications. Even older Americans are at risk, with one in four adults 50 years of age and over using psychoactive medications—mostly opioids and benzodiazepines.
We at Quest Diagnostics have learned through our conversations with healthcare providers that patients often fail to report their non-medical uses of drugs or of non-compliance with prescriptions to their physicians. Prescription drug misuse falls into every age range, among both men and women, and across socioeconomic strata. Because misuse is difficult to predict or detect,many healthcare providers are hesitant to prescribe pain medications even when indicated.
Quest Diagnostics Health Trends is a series of reports produced by Quest Diagnostics based on our database of de-identified laboratory testing data across the U.S. In 2012, we issued our first Quest Diagnostics Health Trends Report on prescription drug misuse, “Prescription Drug Misuse in America: Laboratory Insights into the New Drug Epidemic” and in 2013 we issued “Prescription Drug Misuse in America: A Report on Marijuana and Prescription Drugs.” The current report is based on patients tested using the Quest Diagnostics prescription drug monitoring service. This service tests for commonly prescribed drugs, including pain medications, central nervous system medications, and certain illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine,and heroin.
Our 2014 report builds on our prior research and confirms the high rates of inconsistent test results among those prescribed pain medications and it spans all ages and both genders. This report also provides additional insights into the value of co-testing for heroin metabolites, 6-monoacetylmorphine andmorphine, and the importance of specimen validity testing. Together, these reports reflect analysis of 1,409,037 patient test results for the years 2011–2013. Urine specimens are screened by immunoassay-based methods and all positive results are confirmed by mass spectrometry, the most sensitive and specific drug testing method. The company’s Quest Diagnostics Health Trends studies are performed in compliance with applicable privacy regulations, the company’s strict privacy policies, and as approved by the Western Institutional Review Board.
Read the full study here
During a recent flight home from an industry event, I sat in my seat re-reading my previous “State of the Industry” blogs. A common theme resonated throughout each of them – Simplified Process. I am passionate about a simplified process because it is what our applicants tell us they want.
What Should A Simplified Process Communicate?
It should symbolize a process that is easier, faster and simpler than an applicant probably imagines. Most people assume buying life insurance is complicated and invasive when in fact, it isn’t. It’s time the industry improves applicant education on how simple this process is – from the time of submitting an application to the day the policy is issued. It’s time we start stepping away from the old, traditional way of the life insurance application process and start becoming innovators.
The Internet’s Role
The internet has changed how people interact, the service models they expect and the speed in which they expect service. At the same time, the internet has enabled more transparency, awareness and consumers have access to more information than ever. The internet gives us the ability to more simply and easily communicate processes. We need to leverage the power of the internet and get our message out.
Regaining the Applicant’s Trust
We have to clearly communicate what to expect during the life insurance buying process, improve transparency, and educate applicants on how simple, easy and affordable life insurance really is. We live in a consumer driven-economy and as consumers we want cheaper pricing, faster service and a simpler process. If we can achieve these four key deliverables we can regain trust.
- We must shift all our focus on the Applicant
- We need to offer a “Simplified Process,” a more affordable option than Simplified Issue
- We need to embrace technology; our applicants already have
- We need to make owning life insurance something as necessary as owning a car or home insurance
There has been a disproportionate amount of time and energy our industry has put into “simplified issue” versus a simplified process. Most people are not “Professional Insurance Buyers.” We are all on our own. We believe there is room to educate applicants, promote transparency and simplify the process while providing better and more specific underwriting and ultimately improved mortality. We are moving toward a simplified process in which life insurance will cost consumers less, provide an improved mortality experience for actuaries and insurance companies, enhance and individualize the underwriting process, provide more options and control to the consumer and get policies in the books faster with commissions paid sooner.
It will be an exciting time for our industry when we can collectively look at American families and see more children, spouses, businesses and individuals protected.